Last year, I did a meta holiday gift guide where I picked some of the best items off of the best gift guides out there. Since we're getting down to the wire here on shopping time (not that you should buy anything for anyone this holiday season or any other time of the year), let's crank up this year's version.
Consider giving to charity this year. If you can't spare the time to volunteer (look here or Google for specific opportunities in your area), go on Charity Navigator or Give Well to find an organization worth your attention. Or go on Kiva and give small loans to dozens of families around the world.
For their list this year, The Wirecutter did a list of The Things We Want to Give. Items include The Neat Ice Kit, Benton's ham, and The Flavor Thesaurus. Hmm, I picked all food stuff there. I must be hungry.
I recommend these every year: the Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray and the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer.
From Boing Boing's Happy Mutant's Gift Guide 2014, the excellent Eyes on the Prize documentary on DVD, the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk, a Lodge 10.5-inch round skillet (can personally vouch for this), and perhaps my favorite Amazon item of all time, the 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant. Don't worry, the latter item includes a lube pump so you don't need to buy it separately.
For the sports fan in your life, SB Nation's 2014 Holiday Gift Guide includes Zubaz pants (!!), Big League Chew, the Bluetooth Gramophone, and a home beer brewing kit. Throwback-errific!
Among the items on the Tools & Toys Christmas Catalog, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and the Bellroy Slim Sleeve Wallet (which is my own personal wallet).
Nothing on Mat Honan's 8 Perfect Gift Ideas for 'Twitter Dads' really grabbed me (even though I am an official Twitter Dad), except for the Bugaboo Bee. We had the first iteration of that stroller and it was the absolute best thing. We wore out two sets of wheels strollering Ollie and Minna around the city in that thing.
But I'll take one of everything off of The Kid Should See This Gift Guide. Especially Animalium,
the Crosley portable turntable, My Neighbor Totoro on Blu-ray, and a vintage typewriter. [Update: My friend Dan says to avoid Crosley turntables: "They use ceramic cartridges that track 3x as heavy as standard carts, permanently damaging records." I have no idea what that means, but Dan knows things about turntables so you might want to make another choice.]
Good year for science-ish nonfiction books: How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson, What If? by Randall Munroe, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom, and Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.
And cookbooks: Plenty More from Yotam Ottolenghi, MEAT by Pat LaFrieda, Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson, Michael Ruhlman's Egg, Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, My Paris Kitchen from David Lebovitz (whose Paris dining recommendations are top notch), and Jeffrey Morgenthaler's The Bar Book.
The Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide features products made locally in Brooklyn, including bracelets with subways maps and kottke.org favorite, Tattly.
Tom Bihn's What We're Giving list includes Fairbault wool blankets and their own Shop Bag. (via @widepipe)
One of many holiday lists from Food52, the Under $25 Gift Guide features Heirloom Seed Art Packets and this Water Bottle with Charcoal Filter.
The Continuous Lean went on a serious listing bender with The Epic ACL Holiday Gift Guide 2014. The stylish selections include the Whiskey Wedge, the Jaguar F-Type Project 7, and the Lego Architecture Fallingwater set.
Josh Rives made a list of gifts that don't suck. Among the non-suckage is The Dangerous Book for Boys, Coudal and Draplin's excellent Field Notes, and Cards Against Humanity.
Misc: the Good Web Bundle gives you subscriptions to five indie services/sites for one low price. You can get 8GB flash drives in necklace form now. From Haruki Murakami, a recently released short novel about "a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library". I have no idea if they are actually vintage or just made to look so, but you can find several vintage Soviet chess sets on Etsy (like this one); I bought one recently and if someone faked it, they did a good job. (Even if it's fake, it's real, etc.) You can buy Post-It Notes that are almost two-feet across.
Update: Added the guide from Tools & Toys and added a warning about the portable turntable. Added giant Post-It Notes. Added The Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide. Added Tom Bihn's list. Added Food52 list. Added The Continuous Lean set. Added a list of gifts that don't suck.
Whilst roving about Mars, Curiosity has slowly but surely racked up evidence for a past Mars that was warm, wet, and possibly habitable.
John P. Grotzinger of Caltech, the project scientist for the mission, reported at a news conference on Monday that the rover's yearlong trek to Mount Sharp provided strong new evidence that Gale Crater had large lakes, rivers and deltas, on and off, for millions to tens of millions of years. The geology shows that even when the surface water dried up, plenty of water would have remained underground, he said.
Moreover, the team concluded, numerous deltalike and lakelike formations detected by orbiting satellites are almost certainly the dried remains of substantial ancient lakes and deltas. None of this proves that life existed on the planet, but the case for an early Mars that was ripe and ready for life has grown stronger.
"As a science team, Mars is looking very attractive to us as a habitable planet," Dr. Grotzinger said in an interview. "Not just sections of Gale Crater and not just a handful of locations, but at different times around the globe."
See also the interactive 28 Months on Mars.
Update: And right on cue, Curiosity has recorded a two-month-long methane burst on Mars. One explanation for the methane is that it's a waste product of living organisms.
The presence of methane is significant because the gas cannot exist for long. Calculations indicate that sunlight and chemical reactions in the Martian atmosphere would break up the molecules within a few hundred years, so any methane there now must have been created recently.
It could have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life in the form of microbes known as methanogens, which release methane as a waste product.
Even if the explanation for the methane turns out to be geological, the hydrothermal systems would still be prime locations to search for signs of life.
The Entire Screen of One Game is like the video game version of Powers of Ten. The game isn't fun or winnable, but it will confuse your brain after only a few seconds. (via @pieratt)
If you've ever wondered how a designer does their thing (or even if you haven't), this look-over-the-shoulder view of Aaron Draplin designing a logo for a fictional company in about 10 minutes is great. A nice reminder that design is truly about making it up as you go along.
I love Draplin. Internet treasure, that guy. And that lefty writing claw! Go lefties!
Every once in awhile on the site, I'll use the phrase "in my wheelhouse", meaning something that is particularly interesting to me. Well, Grantland's long oral history of the making of Boogie Nights is so in my wheelhouse that I might be the captain.
When [Anderson] set out to film Boogie Nights, it was with a resolve bordering on arrogance. Compromise wasn't part of the plan. Still, after an intense production and postproduction period -- one in which the director had to manage a cranky, confused Burt Reynolds and an untested, rapping underwear model named Mark Wahlberg -- Anderson was forced once again to fight studio heads for his cut of the film.
But Anderson's vision prevailed this time. Nearly 20 years later, Boogie Nights endures. For its beautiful portrait of nontraditional families; for Reynolds and Wahlberg, the surrogate father and son, who were never better; for Philip Seymour Hoffman, squeezing into character and breaking hearts; for its prodigy director sticking to his guns and nailing it; for John C. Reilly's hot-tub poetry; for Roller Girl. Is everybody ready? This is the making and near unmaking of Boogie Nights.
Man, I love that movie. But think on this: Leonardo DiCaprio as Dirk Diggler, Drew Barrymore as Roller Girl, and Bill Murray as Jack Horner.
In a series of tweets this morning, surgeon and author Atul Gawande called out the doctors who helped the CIA torture people.
First do no harm.
Yarin Gal used an "inpainting" algorithm to extend the canvases of notable paintings. Like van Gogh's Starry Night or Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa:
There's a post on the Wolfram Alpha blog about how you can achieve similar effects using the Wolfram Language.
Wow, the art of making marbled paper, a short film from 1970.
Charmingly British, just like the film about the Teddy Grays candy factory or the putter togetherer of scissors. Super cool how the inks are placed on a water bath, swirled expertly to make patterns, and then transferred to the paper. Also of note: the segment on the conservation of old books starting at around 9:55...I never knew they took them apart like that to dunk the pages in water! Sadly, the Cockerell Bindery ceased operation in the late 1980s with the death of Sydney Cockerell and its contents were sold at auction. (thx, matt)
This is disgusting and awful and monstrous and I don't even know what to say about it. The NY Times lists seven key points (full article) from a report released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the CIA's torture practices. We knew it was bad, suspected it was worse, but this is just beyond.
The report describes extensive waterboarding as a "series of near drownings" and suggests that more prisoners were subjected to waterboarding than the three prisoners the C.I.A. has acknowledged in the past. The report also describes detainees being subjected to sleep deprivation for up to a week, medically unnecessary "rectal feeding" and death threats. Conditions at one prison, described by a clandestine officer as a "dungeon," were blamed for the death of a detainee, and the harsh techniques were described as leading to "psychological and behavioral issues, including hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation."
This is surely the shit sandwich on top of an already unbearable year. I agree wholeheartedly with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who issued this statement about the report:
A great nation must be prepared to acknowledge its errors. This report details an ugly chapter in American history during which our leaders and the intelligence community dishonored our nation's proud traditions. Of course we must aggressively pursue international terrorists who would do us harm, but we must do so in a way that is consistent with the basic respect for human rights which makes us proud to be Americans.
"The United States must not engage in torture. If we do, in an increasingly brutal world we lose our moral standing to condemn other nations or groups that engage in uncivilized behavior.
There's a good reason your cat looks so depressed. The days of her antics dominating YouTube are long gone. As the New Yorker's Tad Friend explains, in addition to cats "YouTube was adults with camcorders shooting kids being adorably themselves. It was amateur hour." Since then, YouTube has gone pro. Jeffrey Katzenberg predicts that "within five years, YouTube will be the biggest media platform of any, by far, in the entire world." It's where your kids are. It's where the new stars are. And it's where your cat isn't. Welcome to the new Hollywood and Vine.
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This is the craziest thing I've ever seen anyone do on skis: Cody Townsend skiing down a super steep face in a space between two rock walls no wider than a supermarket aisle. Powder Magazine called it "The Line of the Year".
They forgot to put "Batshit Crazy" before the word "Line". (via devour)
Rolling Stone lists the 40 most groundbreaking music albums in history. Kanye West makes the list with 808s and Heartbreaks, Dr. Dre with The Chronic, Nirvana with Nevermind, and the Beatles with Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper's. About The Chronic:
The album sold a world to white America that it had never really seen before, and packaged it with a soundtrack so funky there was no avoiding it. It was both raw, uncut underground and carefully composed pop. If Public Enemy confronted white America, The Chronic seduced it. For the first time ever, hip-hop's mainstream and America's were one.
I counted only four women artists though: Mary J. Blige, Loretta Lynn, Nico, and Carole King.
John Lennon died 34 years ago today. The night he died, someone made a six-minute recording of what was playing on FM radio in NYC:
Almost every station was either discussing the death or playing a Beatles song. See also the front page of the NY Times the next day and the article in the Daily News about the shooting. (via wfmu & @UnlikelyWorlds)
Update: Legendary reporter Jimmy Breslin wrote a piece shortly after the shooting about the police officers that drove Lennon to the hospital that night.
As Moran started driving away, he heard people in the street shouting, "That's John Lennon!"
Moran was driving with Bill Gamble. As they went through the streets to Roosevelt Hospital, Moran looked in the backseat and said, "Are you John Lennon?" The guy in the back nodded and groaned.
Back on Seventy-second Street, somebody told Palma, "Take the woman." And a shaking woman, another victim's wife, crumpled into the backseat as Palma started for Roosevelt Hospital. She said nothing to the two cops and they said nothing to her. Homicide is not a talking matter.
And that last paragraph, wow. (via @mkonnikova)
Using only squares, triangles, and the condition that each shape wants to move if less than 1/3 of its neighbors are like it, watch how extreme segregation appears in even the most random mixing of shapes.
These little cuties are 50% Triangles, 50% Squares, and 100% slightly shapist. But only slightly! In fact, every polygon prefers being in a diverse crowd. You can only move them if they're unhappy with their immediate neighborhood. Once they're OK where they are, you can't move them until they're unhappy with their neighbors again. They've got one, simple rule: "I wanna move if less than 1/3 of my neighbors are like me."
Harmless, right? Every polygon would be happy with a mixed neighborhood. Surely their small bias can't affect the larger shape society that much? Well... And... our shape society becomes super segregated. Daaaaang. Sometimes a neighborhood just becomes square, and it's not their fault if no triangles wanna stick around. And a triangular neighborhood would welcome a square, but they can't help it if squares ain't interested.
Super super fascinating. Take your time and go through and play with all the interactive widgets. (via @ftrain)
A tribute to outer space in movies, featuring clips from Gravity, The Fountain, Alien, Star Wars, Solaris, Sunshine, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more.
Music is from Hans Zimmer's soundtrack for Interstellar, which I was initially lukewarm on but have been listening to consistently over the past week or so. (via devour)
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